New Brighton Revisited through the lens of three of its most famous exports
Ken Grant, Martin Parr & Tom Wood head back to where it all began
Opening at Marine Point, New Brighton, on Saturday 14th July is a newly combined history of New Brighton, by three of its most famous children. Ken Grant, Tom Wood and Martin Parr all lived and worked in New Brighton from the late 70s to the end of the 90s, and have since built their reputations as three of the best creative photographers in the world.
Opening as part of Independents Biennial 2018, the exhibition is one of the highlights in the festival programme and a huge draw for the regional spread of this year’s festival, which takes place in all six boroughs for 2018 as the Liverpool City Region starts to find its combined identity.
The three photographers barely need any introduction, and their work certainly won’t, with iconic scenes of one of the UK’s most iconic towns, and all three artists have captured their reflections in their own unique way.
Love him or loathe him, Martin Parr is an artist whose work captures snapshots of life, with an unashamed attachment to stereotypes. There’s always a humour to his images in the simplicity of what he captures. I’m often quite a Parr sceptic, all too often finding his work out of context, but what this exhibition offers is the opportunity to see Martin Parr’s work in the space that created it. The realisation that Parr’s passion for capturing ‘Britishness’ begun in New Brighton in the 70s, shines a whole new light on his work.
And alongside this, the intimately local work of Tom Wood, whose recent exhibition at Open Eye Gallery was one of the best attended in the gallery’s history. The exhibition served as a memoir of life on the Mersey, recollecting his commutes by Ferry. On the Streets of New Brighton though, he became known as “Photie-Man”, for how prolifically obsessive his photography was in New Brighton, capturing the truths of the neighbourhoods he lived in over time. It’s another world from the snapshots of Martin Parr, with Wood working over time. The juxtaposition of these two artists, finding inspiration in the same place, but working with such different outlooks will be one to behold.
And Ken Grant, who said of his contribution to the exhibition: “made as soon as work routines allowed -in the long quiet summer weeks when clocks slowed, on busy weekends when the fairs and carnivals took over -or at the end of working days, when there was no better place to walk to than out to the edge of low tide, to look out at the sea beyond with home at your back”
Ken Grant’s contribution is very much the reality of the working resident of New Brighton. He photographed what he needed to, and what he wanted to. Without any intention, he set out to take pictures that he wanted to save.
“To put the pictures in a conversation with Martin’s and Tom’s may betray differing intentions, crossovers, ambitions or even make us wonder what photography does to us and for us…and for the likes of us. Looking at my own pictures over the last year – in most cases for the first time, I couldn’t recall any intentions beyond the need to photograph”
Independents Biennial, the programme taking over the Wirral, between 14th July and 28th October, needs events like this. They connect the Wirral to the rest of the festival in a way that is unique, and the beauty of it is that you can get the Ferry to Seacombe and walk along much of the seafront that inspired the exhibition on your way to see it.
New Brighton Revisited runs 14 July – 25 August 2018
Independents Biennial runs 14 July – 28 October 2018
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith